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Ulster Unionist peer Ken Maginnis facing 18-month suspension for bullying and homophobic language

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Ken Maginnis could be suspended from the House of Lords for at least 18 months for bullying and harassment of three MPs and a security officer. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Ken Maginnis could be suspended from the House of Lords for at least 18 months for bullying and harassment of three MPs and a security officer. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Ken Maginnis could be suspended from the House of Lords for at least 18 months for bullying and harassment of three MPs and a security officer. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Independent Ulster Unionist peer Lord Ken Maginnis is facing an 18-month suspension from the House of Lords after an inquiry found he bullied three MPs and a security guard while using offensive homophobic language.

The House of Lords Conduct Committee also recommended that the 82-year-old peer should undertake behaviour change training, with his lengthy suspension extended further if he fails to engage constructively with the course.

The recommended suspension is one of the longest ever handed out in the House of Lords, but one of Mr Maginnis’s victims said that in any normal workplace, he would have been “shown the door”.

It will take effect only if approved by a vote of the Lords on December 7.

Complaints were brought against Mr Maginnis after a series of incidents in early 2020, said the report.

First, parliamentary security officer Christian Bombolo reported that the peer was “verbally abusive” when asked to show his pass to enter the Palace of Westminster on January 7.

When Scottish National Party MP Hannah Bardell intervened, she was treated “rudely and agressively” by the peer, who served 18 years in the House of Commons as an MP for the Ulster Unionist Party from 1983 to 2001.

Mr Maginnis later discussed the incident with the media, using “disrespectful and derogatory” language about Mr Bombolo and “homophobic and derogatory” language about Ms Bardell.

On February 11, Mr Maginnis became “agitated” during a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces and addressed “rude remarks” to the meeting’s chair, Labour MP Luke Pollard.

Later that evening, he complained about Mr Pollard in an email sent to several parliamentarians – including the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) chair, Conservative MP James Gray – with a “homophobic subject line” and containing “remarks about Mr Pollard which centred on his sexual orientation and were homophobic”.

Three weeks later, on March 4, Mr Maginnis got involved in a “heated discussion” with Mr Gray at an APPG breakfast meeting when he was told he could not attend because of his previous behaviour towards Mr Pollard.

After seeing the row, group member and Labour MP Toby Perkins approached Lord Maginnis to ask what had happened, and said that the peer responded by being “homophobic, aggressive and disrespectful, including by making further homophobic remarks” about Mr Pollard and Ms Bardell, the report stated.

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All three MPs and Mr Bombolo have agreed for their identities to be made public, said the committee.

Ms Bardell said she hoped he will now apologise to her and the others involved.

“I appreciate that an 18-month ban is a serious sanction and that Lord Maginnis’s return to the House of Lords will be dependent upon him undertaking ‘a designated course of bespoke behaviour change training and coaching’,” said the Livingston MP.

“However I consider it likely that if this had happened in any normal workplace in the UK and someone behaved in such a systematically abusive, bullying and homophobic way, which the report clearly states he has, they would be shown the door.”

She said that while the experience has had a “profound impact” on her mental health, she was glad she “stood up and spoke out”, adding: “As we seek to make politics, and indeed the nations of the UK, fairer and more just, we must root out abusive and homophobic behaviour such as that which I and others experienced at the hands of Lord Ken Maginnis.”

The committee doubled the nine-month suspension proposed by the House of Lords standards commissioner because Lord Maginnis “showed very little insight into the impact of his behaviour on the complainants, and no remorse for the upset he had caused.”

He instead “portrayed himself as a victim of a conspiracy... and continued to refer to the complainants in a disobliging and sometimes offensive manner”.

The report said that the recommended suspension should not end until Mr Maginnis has completed behaviour change training and shown that he is “able to demonstrate a clear understanding of how his behaviour impacts on other people in the parliamentary community”.


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